When you look at a work of art by Luis Alfonso Villalobos (Guadalajara, Mexico, 1976) you need to gaze at it hard for a few seconds before the realization hits you that it is indeed a painting and not a photograph. On his canvases, the artist pushes back the boundaries of painting in an attempt to achieve the physicality of architecture in order to enter and even inhabit it through meticulous technical attention to detail, with no boundary between what is real and what is represented.
The exhibition Maquinarias Flotantes (Floating Machinery) is made up of three series: Estructuras Flotantes (Floating Structures), Vástago (Leaves) and Pantano (Reservoir). Three concepts are also reflected on through his paintings: matter, history and functions.
The first series, Estructuras Flotantes (Floating Structures), demonstrates a desire to expand painting in a bid to achieve the three-dimensionality of architecture. The artist depicts architecture that marked a turning point in the history of architectural design, such as the apartment that Le Corbusier designed for collector Carlos de Beistegui in Paris, creations by the Mexican architect Luis Barragán, or the studio that architect Juan O’Gorman designed in 1934 for Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. Villalobos reflects on painting’s potential as matter, contemplating it as an object in itself and pushing the limits by defying the canvas’ two-dimensionality in order to explore its sculptural possibilities. All this is represented in his “machines for painting”, as he calls them, through maquettes of real architecture specifically designed for activities covering all walks of art, whether it is to create, to exhibit or to investigate what painting has to offer.
The Vástagos (Leaves) series takes historical reflections on the situation of contemporary painting and its continual foretold death to a further level. On the canvases, a camera seems to home in on scenes of exhibitions, glimpsed through banana leaves that obstruct our vision. Work by Ellsworth Kelly, Blinky Palermo and Imi Knoebel can be distinguished between the tropical foliage, creating metapaintings interrupted by nature. In this way, Villalobos relates the tropical tree’s capacity for survival with the extreme conditions in which contemporary painting endures and is expanded.
In Pantano (Reservoir), on the other hand, the artist breaks away from the aesthetics of the previous series, reflecting on the dichotomy between what we see and what we perceive. In this case, the paintings are floating structures that can be viewed from different angles, walked round and even seen through. Freed from the wall, they sometimes invite you to wonder what they really are, even though you know that they are canvases manipulated by the artist. Hence, each structure is disassociated from its function as a work of art so that it can become something more; something not subordinated to pictorial processes but dependent on the angle from which it is viewed by the human eye.
The exhibition Maquinarias Flotantes (Floating Machines) is a retrospective of Luis Alfonso Villalobos’ recent work: a miscellaneous selection that upholds the material and symbolic power of contemporary painting, going beyond the limits of painting as a medium to magnify it.